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Winter Wandering Lake Tahoe's West Shore

Lake Tahoe's West Shore may not be considered a "destination" spot by travel book publishers or World Wide Web directories, but spend a few days on this serene stretch of Lake Tahoe between Tahoe City and Emerald Bay and you'll discover the magic that draws visitors back year after year.

The West Shore is the Tahoe of cozy cabins, Bed and Breakfasts, winter camping, and ski huts. This is the Tahoe that appeals to wilderness lovers such as it did John Muir, who tried to get Tahoe designated a National Park (without success).

Within a half-mile of any spot along the West Shore, you'll be near nordic and alpine skiing, backcountry snowboarding, telemarking, sledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling or a host of other activities. If all the winter recreation wears you out, you can take in cocktails or dinner at a selection of eateries that serve everything from full-course gourmet meals to chicken pot pies. Even when it's crowded, by local standards, the West Shore remains a hospitable tranquil place.


Tahoe's Magical West Shore
Guidebook • Keepsake

If you want to get acquainted with the area, the logical place to start is the "Y" in Tahoe City, where Highway 28 forks off Highway 89 and heads for stateline Nevada on the North Shore. Stay on Highway 89 and head south. On the curve of land which comprises the northern bank of Tahoe's Truckee River outlet, Dot So La Lee, the Washoe Indian's most famous basketweaver, use to sit with her front door open weaving the legends of the Washoe people into beautiful, mathematically-intricate creations. This is also the spot where the Southern Pacific railway use to bring San Francisco elite to the opulence of the Tahoe Tavern or to catch the Steamer Tahoe for another destination around the lake.

At this crossing, heading south, you'll cross the Truckee River at Fanny Bridge, named after what you see of the tourists who bend over the railing to see how many gates are open at the outlet of Lake Tahoe.

On the South side of the inlet, the Gatekeeper's Cabin, currently a museum of Tahoe memorabilia, has an impressive Indian basket collection. The museum is closed in winter, however, for historians, the curator may consider opening it for a visit. Not far from the museum, on the left, you'll notice cars lining up along the road at the sled hill - a favorite spot for families with young children. Across the street is 64 Acres Park, popular for snowshoeing and learning to cross country ski.

A bit further down the road on the right, is an antique shop followed by the fabulous log building of Tahoe Tree Company, at the corner of Gralibakken road . At the end of that road, lies Granlibakken Resort, which has a conference center, and a small ski and sled hill. It was also the setting for Tahoe's first ski club, formed to host the USSA Championships for the 1932 Olympics and still in existence today.
Heading back down Highway 89-south, on the right, there'a health club - for those who can't leave home without their daily workout routine, and next door, a European-style bakery to gain back any pounds lost.

As the highway begins to wind among firs and pines, on the right, you'll see a stone chapel, once part of the old Tahoe Tavern complex. Moved from its original location, it is now part of the St. Nicolas Episcopal Church. Continuing on, you'll pass Corpus Christi Catholic Church, then 2 streets on the right - both named Sequoia. Just after the second Sequoia is Pine. This will take you to one of the West Shore's many wilderness cross country ski areas - Paige Meadows, an easy flat meadow to ski through, surrounded by a scenic forest.

To get there, go up Pine until you reach Tahoe Park Heights Dr., turn right. You will come to an intersection at the crest of a hill - take the middle fork. The road then turns into Big Pine Rd. Follow this road out to Silvertip, turn left, and park at the end of the road.

Back at the highway, continue south. Immediately on the left you'll see an historic cluster of quaint old Tahoe cabins, followed by a couple of small markets, a cafe, and Sunnyside Resort which serves the best fish tacos around. Just south of Sunnyside, look for Pineland Drive, which will take you toward Alpine Peaks, and the back side of Alpine Meadows Ski Resort.

If you are staying on the West Shore, you can avoid the congestion of Alpine Meadow's main entrance by using the Sherwood chair at the backside. To do this, you need to take the shuttle from Sunnyside Resort (shuttle parking across the street from the resort). This is only available on weekends and holidays. The driver will sell you a ticket on the bus. Alpine has a special deal where couple's with small children can get an interchangable ticket, to takes turns skiing and watching the kids.

Another popular cross country ski area is Blackwood Canyon, two miles south of Sunnyside. The first few miles of the road are straight and fairly level, which makes it popular with cross country skiers and snow mobilers. There's plenty of parking, just off the highway, but it requires a $5 snow park permit which you can pick up a few miles down the road at Homewood Hardware.

Another quarter-mile south of Blackwood is Eagle Rock, the well-known promontory that sits just to the west of the highway. With a little help and encouragement, even small kids (on snowshoes) can make it to the top for spectacular views of the lake. Take some binoculars and a camera with plenty of film and be extremely careful in winter not to go too near the edge.

The easiest way to get up there is to park just to the south of it, go straight to the very back, then up that way. Half a mile south of Eagle Rock is Fleur du Lac, a walled compound of multimillion-dollar homes that was fashioned from cement magnate Henry Kaiser's 18-acre retreat. You can park (just for a minute) near the entrance along Highway 89 to peer discreetly through gates at the opulence that served as one of the locations for "The Godfather II."

On the right, just before Homewood, is the Chaney House Bed and Breakfast - a marvelous stone home of old Tahoe charm. As you enter Homewood, Swiss Lakewood, an elegant restaurant, appears on the right which offers European-style fine dining. Some West Shore visitors dine there, head for a show at a South Shore casino, then return for a late fireside dessert.

Then you come to the Tahoe Gear recreation specialists, with a ski and snowboard rental shop, where arriving on a Friday evening (before 6pm), you can pick up some skis for the weekend thus avoiding the lines at one of the ski resorts the next morning. Next, you come to Homewood Mountain Resort, a small family-styled ski resort which offers the most exquisite views of the lake and trails for all ski levels. They have "Wild Wednesdays" (2 tickets for the price of 1) throughout the season and some fun events during Snowfest in March. Keep your eye on the Tahoe Country calendar for details.

The hamlet of Homewood, has a few motels, a Bed and Breakfast, a couple of real estate offices, a market with a deli which also sells espressos, a cafe, a pizza parlor, a post office, and a hardware store - where you can rent cross country skis and snowshoes, and buy a snow park permit.

If you enjoy snow mobiling, about 1 mile south of Homewood look for a brown road sign that directs you to "Rubicon-McKinney OHV Access." Turn west here and follow the signs to the turn-off for Miller Lake. You can also do a hut skiing trip from this point, to the Ludlow cabin, owned by the Sierra Club. This hut is equipped with a wood-burning stove, but food, supplies and bedding must be carried in. The hut is used extensively during the winter, and reservations should be made before planning an overnight trip.

On the right just before entering Tahoma, you will notice a log cabin which was used in the 1930s film Rose Marie, with Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy. It is easily recognizable by the impressive log fence surrounding it. Its property was used during the 1960 Winter Olympics as a turnaround point for the cross country ski events (held near by).

Tahoma, is the last real town on the West Shore. Here you'll find the quaint red cabins of Tahoma Meadows Bed and Breakfast and the Stony Ridge Cafe. There's a grocery store up a bit on the left, then on the right, is the Norfolk Woods Inn, a charming old Tahoe inn, once frequented by Aimee Semple McPherson - the Four Square Chapel evangelist who had hoped to make Tahoma a summer camp for her congregation. Then you will find a small cluster of buildings which the locals call "Downtown Tahoma": a post office, laundromat, a gourmet pizzaria, a cabinet maker, and a real estate office.

The West Shore winter season begins each year at the Tahoma Christmas Gala, held the first Saturday of December, in the Marie Sluchak Community Park (at the fork in Pine Street), where Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive by firetruck to hand out gifts to all the local kids.

Next along the highway is Tahoma Lodge and Tahoe Lake Cottages who both offer cozy cabins with kitchens. Below Tahoma, the buildings thin out and you enter Sugar Pine Point State Park, where you can try some winter camping (the only year round campground in the Tahoe Basin) or enjoy the great cross country skiing (day use fee $5). It has 7 miles of groomed trails and also borders Desolation Wilderness, for the more adventurous. On a sunny day or during a full moon, it's a must to go skiing along the lakeside by the Ehrman Mansion. The park offers a variety of programs: cross country skiing for beginners, full moon tours, avalance awareness, and animals in winter (snowshoe tour) - see Tahoe Country's calendar.

Meeks Bay, or Magulu Watah as it was called by the Washoe Indians, the first to enjoys its shores, lies about a mile south of Sugar Pine. Across the highway, the old logging road (which ends at the trailhead to Desolation Wilderness) is popular for snowshoeing and crosscountry skiing. Meeks Bay has a fire station and a gift shop across the street. There are also many places to do backcountry skiing and snowboarding along the West Shore. Keep checking, we'll be adding more text, photos, and maps.


Text by Jill Beede
Photo/art (top to bottom):
View from Homewood Mountain Resort (Jill Beede)
Watercolor Sugar Pine Point State Park (Missy Sandeman)
Tahoma Meadows after a winter storm (Kim Broyles)
Ludlow Hut (Mike Stuckey)
Spring Skier (Jill Beede)

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